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ESRC celebrates impact of slow-burning research projects

Research carried out up to 50 years ago could receive belated recognition through the Economic and Social Research Council’s Celebrating Impact Prizes.

The prizes, awarded for the first time last year, reward the successes of ESRC-funded researchers “who have achieved, or are achieving, outstanding economic or societal impacts”.

The first competition was only open to work that had been completed during the previous five years. ”That was because it was a new event and we wanted to gauge the response that we would get. But we have extended the eligibility rules this time because we recognise that it can often take considerable time for the impact of research to percolate through,” says Aaron Boardley, from the ESRC communications department, who is organising the event.

He adds that the council wants to be able to honour any research it has funded, which is why it will consider research going back nearly five decades to when the council was established in 1965 as the Social Science Research Council.

There are five main prize categories in the 2013 awards: business, for research that has generated industry impact through successful knowledge exchange and engagement; public policy, for research that has contributed to the development of UK policy at a local, regional or national government level; society, for research that has made a contribution benefiting society as a whole or a more specific section of the public; international impact, for research that has achieved impact at an international level in business, policy or societal issues; and early-career impact, for research carried out by students who have achieved, or shown the potential to achieve, outstanding impact in any of the other categories.

A further award will go to the Impact Champion of the Year, a nominated individual who has a significant personal track record in knowledge exchange and supporting and enabling impact.

Last year’s awards attracted a considerable number of entries for educational research, and the council would like more interest from researchers active in areas such as social policy and economics. But work in any relevant academic discipline will be given equal consideration and the scheme is not restricted to research wholly funded by the ESRC. “We have had a number of enquiries already about projects that have been run collaboratively with funding bodies such as the Department for International Development. Yes, they are eligible,” says Boardley.